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An interview with Lance Price


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 02:35 PM

Lance Price worked at 10 Downing Street from 1998 to 2000 where he was deputy to Alastair Campbell. He was the Labour Party’s Director of Communications from 2000 until the General Election of 2001. Before joining Number Ten he was a BBC Political Correspondent for many years. He has now returned to journalism as a writer, political commentator and broadcaster.

The publication of The Spin Doctor’s Diary is September, 2005, caused a minor storm in Whitehall. As Lance has admitted: “The serialisation in The Mail on Sunday, not surprisingly, fuelled the flames. Not least because they decided, without informing me, to publish those parts of the Diary that I had agreed to alter at the request of the Cabinet Office prior to publication. Among the more controversial stories were that the Prime Minister had “relished” first sending British troops into action in Iraq back in 1999; that he had cursed the “f***king Welsh” over the first Assembly elections and that he had apparently promised Rupert Murdoch not to change policy towards Europe without speaking to him first.”

Lance has agreed to discuss his book on the Forum.

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#2 Andy Walker

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 02:55 PM

1. Why did you choose the Mail on Sunday for your book's serialization? I find it hard to think of a newspaper less sympathetic to Labour. Was this deliberate or were they just the highest bidder?

2. Do you believe that New Labour project contained any substance or was it always just "spin"?

3. To what extent has internal party democracy been totally by-passed and if so do you believe that the condition is terminal?

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 04:06 PM

You have written a fascinating book. It is both an historical account of an important period of government and a vitally important historical source. It also gives an insight into the way that politics has changed since 1997.

Before I start I should point out where I am coming from. I joined the Labour Party in 1963. I embraced the values of what Tony Blair would describe as “Old Labour”. I was a socialist who joined what everybody believed was a socialist party. At the time, virtually all members believed in the development of both an egalitarian Britain and a more equal world. We were totally opposed to the inequalities that existed between classes, races, sexes and countries. We opposed all forms of discrimination and abuses of power. We were not a united party. Although we shared the same objectives, we disagreed about strategy and the time-scale that was needed to achieve equality.

Members of the Labour Party were shocked by the savagery of Thatcherism. We were also surprised by the time that the British public took to fully comprehend the true nature of Thatcherism. That did not happen until the mid 1990s. It was at this point that Tony Blair arrived on the scene claiming that the Labour needed to change in order to gain power. The result was the “New Labour Project”. Like most members of the party, I was highly suspicious of this new development. As Robin Ramsay points out in his excellent book, The Rise of New Labour, some feared that there were some powerful figures in the background who were pulling the strings. That this was the result of the ruling class had decided that the Conservative Party would be heavily defeated in the next General Election. Their fear was that a left-wing government would take power that would reverse the changes that the Tories had made since 1979. As the Labour Party was bound to gain power, it was necessary to make sure it had a “Thatcherite” leadership.

I hoped that Tony Blair was a radical in disguise. That it was an act to fool Rupert Murdoch and his cronies that Labour had changed from being a socialist party. I therefore voted for the Labour candidate in my constituency in 1997. He was also a friend and colleague in the NUT. He was elected as was Tony Blair and the Labour Party. It was only a couple of weeks to realize that Tony Blair was indeed a corrupt politician who had sold out to enemies of socialism. That was the disclosure that Bernie Ecclestone had donated a million pounds to the Labour Party in order to persuade the government to exempt motor-racing from a ban on tobacco sponsorship. To me this was a resigning issue. As Tony Blair refused to go, I resigned instead. Some of my friends went at the same time. Other friends waited until it became clear that New Labour was a Thatcherite party. PFI caused several to leave, for other friends it was the attempt to destroy comprehensive education in this country that was the final straw. For others, it was the illegal invasion of Iraq, the refusal to change Thatcher’s top-rate of income tax, the inadequacy of House of Lords reform, tuition fees, or the blatant corruption of Blair’s government as seen with the recent “loans for honours” scandal. Now, not one of my friends remain in the party. Nor will we return until Tony Blair and his cronies have departed from the scene. We are not alone as the vast majority of Labour Party members have resigned since 1997. Nor have they been replaced by believers in the New History Project with membership of the party at an all-time low.

(1) I suppose all political parties have employed “spin” in an attempt to win the support of the public. The complaint against Blair is that his government has become obsessed with controlling the way events are interpreted. This in itself has made people very disillusioned with politicians. For example, one of the things that you notice when New Labour cabinet ministers appear on Newsnight, Question Time or some other television programme, is that they clearly are working from a prepared script. It is never their views on a particular subject but Tony Blair’s views. As most politicians are very poor actors, they find it impossible to disguise and they come over as robots mouthing the words of others. In your book you spend some time on the campaign to stop Ken Livingstone from becoming the mayor of London. Did not Blair, Campbell or Mandelson realize why Livingstone was so popular with the electorate? Livingstone is the complete opposite to everything New Labour stands for. He is a socialist who refuses to abandon his principles. Although many disagree with him, they do appreciate he is telling the truth as he sees it.

(2) On page 8 you quote Anji Hunter as saying that Peter Mandelson is “brilliant at media advice for everyone but himself”. She is only half-right about this. Mandelson clearly has no idea how to present himself to the public. He is probably the most disliked politician in Britain. Obviously corrupt and self-centred, he seems to be totally unaware of the appalling smugness that he portrays. He is also totally without political passion (something that all New Labour politicians do not have). Like Tony Blair, Mandelson comes across as a very poor actor. Were you ever involved in any “self-awareness” sessions with the likes of Blair and Mandelson? On page 21 you quote Alistair Campbell as describing Mandelson as the “secretary of state for smugness”. Did Campbell ever tell him this to his face?

(3) It is very noticeable that Blair and his ministers never describe themselves as “socialists”. The policies of the government clearly shows that they are not socialists. Therefore, what is the philosophy of New Labour? Do you think it is unfair when some political commentators suggest that New Labour is a Thatcherite party?

#4 Lance Price

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 07:59 AM

You have written a fascinating book. It is both an historical account of an important period of government and a vitally important historical source. It also gives an insight into the way that politics has changed since 1997.

Before I start I should point out where I am coming from. I joined the Labour Party in 1963. I embraced the values of what Tony Blair would describe as “Old Labour”. I was a socialist who joined what everybody believed was a socialist party. At the time, virtually all members believed in the development of both an egalitarian Britain and a more equal world. We were totally opposed to the inequalities that existed between classes, races, sexes and countries. We opposed all forms of discrimination and abuses of power. We were not a united party. Although we shared the same objectives, we disagreed about strategy and the time-scale that was needed to achieve equality.

Members of the Labour Party were shocked by the savagery of Thatcherism. We were also surprised by the time that the British public took to fully comprehend the true nature of Thatcherism. That did not happen until the mid 1990s. It was at this point that Tony Blair arrived on the scene claiming that the Labour needed to change in order to gain power. The result was the “New Labour Project”. Like most members of the party, I was highly suspicious of this new development. As Robin Ramsay points out in his excellent book, The Rise of New Labour, some feared that there were some powerful figures in the background who were pulling the strings. That this was the result of the ruling class had decided that the Conservative Party would be heavily defeated in the next General Election. Their fear was that a left-wing government would take power that would reverse the changes that the Tories had made since 1979. As the Labour Party was bound to gain power, it was necessary to make sure it had a “Thatcherite” leadership.

I hoped that Tony Blair was a radical in disguise. That it was an act to fool Rupert Murdoch and his cronies that Labour had changed from being a socialist party. I therefore voted for the Labour candidate in my constituency in 1997. He was also a friend and colleague in the NUT. He was elected as was Tony Blair and the Labour Party. It was only a couple of weeks to realize that Tony Blair was indeed a corrupt politician who had sold out to enemies of socialism. That was the disclosure that Bernie Ecclestone had donated a million pounds to the Labour Party in order to persuade the government to exempt motor-racing from a ban on tobacco sponsorship. To me this was a resigning issue. As Tony Blair refused to go, I resigned instead. Some of my friends went at the same time. Other friends waited until it became clear that New Labour was a Thatcherite party. PFI caused several to leave, for other friends it was the attempt to destroy comprehensive education in this country that was the final straw. For others, it was the illegal invasion of Iraq, the refusal to change Thatcher’s top-rate of income tax, the inadequacy of House of Lords reform, tuition fees, or the blatant corruption of Blair’s government as seen with the recent “loans for honours” scandal. Now, not one of my friends remain in the party. Nor will we return until Tony Blair and his cronies have departed from the scene. We are not alone as the vast majority of Labour Party members have resigned since 1997. Nor have they been replaced by believers in the New History Project with membership of the party at an all-time low.


Clearly my political trajectory has been somewhat different to yours. I joined the Labour Party at Oxford in 1977 when the then Labour government under James Callaghan was already in difficulty and heading for defeat at the hands of Mrs.Thatcher. I certainly thought of myself as a socialist and would probably have put myself on the centre-left of the party. Defeat was a heavy blow for us all but how to respond was far from obvious. Like many I saw the choice being offered respectively by the Benn and Hattersley wings as dispiriting and dangerous. I knew of Labour's more successful periods in power only as a student of politics and recent history, but I was sure of one thing. I knew nothing could be achieved in opposition, unless one was in politics only to admire the purity of one's own principles. I believed that only by winning power and keeping it could Labour do anything for the people it sought to help. I understood that winning power and keeping it would involve compromises and that disappointments and accusations of 'betrayal' were inevitable. It took longer than I hoped but we got there. I am still a member of the Labour Party. That doesn't mean that I support everything that has happened since 1997. It does mean that I believe that the Labour Party is the only vehicle for radical reform capable of achieving anything in this country and that if you turn against it, however great your disappointments, you only help its enemies on the right. Tony Blair's Labour Government may not be the ideal Labour government but it has done a vast amount since 1997 that no Tory government would ever have done and it deserves credit for that. Politics is about hard choices. It has never been a choice between a Blair government and an ideal Labour adminstration, it has always been a choice between Labour and the Tories. I happen to believe that is a meaningful choice and I am proud to have helped in some small way to keep Labour in power and the Tories in opposition.



(2) On page 8 you quote Anji Hunter as saying that Peter Mandelson is “brilliant at media advice for everyone but himself”. She is only half-right about this. Mandelson clearly has no idea how to present himself to the public. He is probably the most disliked politician in Britain. Obviously corrupt and self-centred, he seems to be totally unaware of the appalling smugness that he portrays. He is also totally without political passion (something that all New Labour politicians do not have). Like Tony Blair, Mandelson comes across as a very poor actor. Were you ever involved in any “self-awareness” sessions with the likes of Blair and Mandelson? On page 21 you quote Alistair Campbell as describing Mandelson as the “secretary of state for smugness”. Did Campbell ever tell him this to his face?


'Spin' was a useful tool in opposition but damaged the party hugely in government. During my time in Number Ten that realisation began to dawn on everyone - but it was too late by then. Yes, ministers spouting the party line on Newsnight can be very irritating but Labour's opponents in the media and the Tory party will exploit any sign of division as we have seen so often in the past. Good government requires discipline. If you want to serve as a minister you are rightly obliged to defend the government's policies. There is nothing wrong with that. Having said that I would much prefer a political environment in which genuine debate within parties is respected and not simply attacked as evidence of 'splits'. Proper debate is beginning to re-emerge and I welcome that. But, again, if we attack each other the only people who benefit are our enemies. Blair opposed Livingstone because he genuinely believed he would fracture the party again and damage Labour in government. I agreed with him. Now I think Blair would accept that he was wrong - Ken is of course the Labour mayor of London - and I would certainly concede that the camapign to stop Ken was one of the most discreditable exercises I have ever been involved in.


(2) On page 8 you quote Anji Hunter as saying that Peter Mandelson is “brilliant at media advice for everyone but himself”. She is only half-right about this. Mandelson clearly has no idea how to present himself to the public. He is probably the most disliked politician in Britain. Obviously corrupt and self-centred, he seems to be totally unaware of the appalling smugness that he portrays. He is also totally without political passion (something that all New Labour politicians do not have). Like Tony Blair, Mandelson comes across as a very poor actor. Were you ever involved in any “self-awareness” sessions with the likes of Blair and Mandelson? On page 21 you quote Alistair Campbell as describing Mandelson as the “secretary of state for smugness”. Did Campbell ever tell him this to his face?


In my experience most politicians are woefully poor at self-awareness. Blair himself is something of an exception. He thinks and cares about how people perceive him. There have been times, many more recently, when he has decided to do what he believes to be right even though he knows how it will appear to people. But he has greater sincerity and self-awareness than people give him credit for. Peter Mandelson, on the other hand, seems at times to relish being despised. He wears it almost as a badge of honour. Although like all politicians he secretly wants to be loved and can't understand why we don't all worship him. Alastair told Peter what his weaknesses were to his face many times. So did I. But, of course, unlike his grandfather Herbert Morrison Peter really has always been his own worst enemy.



(3) It is very noticeable that Blair and his ministers never describe themselves as “socialists”. The policies of the government clearly shows that they are not socialists. Therefore, what is the philosophy of New Labour? Do you think it is unfair when some political commentators suggest that New Labour is a Thatcherite party?


I could write a book in answer to that one. Tony Blair did once write a Fabian pamphlet called, rather cheekily, 'Socialism'. The philosophy of New Labour is not socialist, however. It is broadly social democratic. It seeks to promote both economic prosperity and social justice. I hear you groan, but that is not just a slogan. Is 'New Labour' Thatcherite? No, it is not. Would Margaret Thatcher have introduced a national minimum wage, invested billions of extra money in the NHS and schools, significantly reversed the decline in Britain's overseas aid budget, legislated for equality for same sex couples, ended unemployment as a tool of economic management, brought in new rights at work for women, devolved real power to Scotland and Wales? She would not. She did not. I am not claiming that the New Labour government is perfect, far from it. But a fair assessment gives credit where credit is due. Just imagine what Britain would be like if the Tories and not Labour had been in power since 1997.

#5 John Simkin

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Posted 07 June 2006 - 06:42 AM

Clearly my political trajectory has been somewhat different to yours. I joined the Labour Party at Oxford in 1977 when the then Labour government under James Callaghan was already in difficulty and heading for defeat at the hands of Mrs.Thatcher. I certainly thought of myself as a socialist and would probably have put myself on the centre-left of the party. Defeat was a heavy blow for us all but how to respond was far from obvious. Like many I saw the choice being offered respectively by the Benn and Hattersley wings as dispiriting and dangerous. I knew of Labour's more successful periods in power only as a student of politics and recent history, but I was sure of one thing. I knew nothing could be achieved in opposition, unless one was in politics only to admire the purity of one's own principles. I believed that only by winning power and keeping it could Labour do anything for the people it sought to help. I understood that winning power and keeping it would involve compromises and that disappointments and accusations of 'betrayal' were inevitable. It took longer than I hoped but we got there. I am still a member of the Labour Party. That doesn't mean that I support everything that has happened since 1997. It does mean that I believe that the Labour Party is the only vehicle for radical reform capable of achieving anything in this country and that if you turn against it, however great your disappointments, you only help its enemies on the right.


It is indeed true that “nothing could be achieved in opposition, unless one was in politics only to admire the purity of one's own principles”. The problem for any government based on a desire to change society for the better, is how much do you compromise your principles in order to gain and hold onto power. The danger, as in the case of Tony Blair, is the primary objective is to hold power.

Nor do I accept the point that by “the Labour Party is the only vehicle for radical reform capable of achieving anything in this country and that if you turn against it, however great your disappointments, you only help its enemies on the right”. In the past the Liberal Party obtained radical reform and in future, other parties, might be able to introduce important legislation. I know that our corrupt political system works against this, but the two party system is not unchangeable. I also share your dislike of the Tories, and however left-wing David Cameron attempts to portray himself, I would never vote for such a party.

The idea that criticism of the Labour leadership helps “its enemies on the right” is not a new argument. It was of course used by the Harold Wilson government in the 1960s when people like myself criticized the Labour leadership for not condemning the Vietnam War. In fact, the left of the party was constantly being threatened with expulsion. (However, Wilson could always deal with hecklers by verbal wit and did not resort to having his critics dragged from the conference hall like Tony Blair.) The criticism was in fact effective as it stopped Wilson from sending UK troops to Vietnam. It is hoped that criticism from within and without the Labour Party helps to moderate Blair’s right-wing policies.

The criticism of Tony Blair will not lead to a Conservative government. One of Blair’s great achievements is to make the Conservatives a regional party. In many areas of the country, it is the Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats that provide the main opposition to Labour. The most Cameron can hope for in the next election is to deprive Labour of outright power.

Tony Blair's Labour Government may not be the ideal Labour government but it has done a vast amount since 1997 that no Tory government would ever have done and it deserves credit for that. Politics is about hard choices. It has never been a choice between a Blair government and an ideal Labour adminstration, it has always been a choice between Labour and the Tories. I happen to believe that is a meaningful choice and I am proud to have helped in some small way to keep Labour in power and the Tories in opposition…

Tony Blair did once write a Fabian pamphlet called, rather cheekily, 'Socialism'. The philosophy of New Labour is not socialist, however. It is broadly social democratic. It seeks to promote both economic prosperity and social justice. I hear you groan, but that is not just a slogan. Is 'New Labour' Thatcherite? No, it is not. Would Margaret Thatcher have introduced a national minimum wage, invested billions of extra money in the NHS and schools, significantly reversed the decline in Britain's overseas aid budget, legislated for equality for same sex couples, ended unemployment as a tool of economic management, brought in new rights at work for women, devolved real power to Scotland and Wales? She would not. She did not. I am not claiming that the New Labour government is perfect, far from it. But a fair assessment gives credit where credit is due. Just imagine what Britain would be like if the Tories and not Labour had been in power since 1997.


I would agree that New Labour has done some good things: “the national minimum wage… significantly reversed the decline in Britain's overseas aid budget, legislated for equality for same sex couples, ended unemployment as a tool of economic management, brought in new rights at work for women, devolved real power to Scotland and Wales.” I especially liked devolution because by the use of coalition administrations, they have been able to show that you do not need examination league tables and student tuition fees.

It is also true that New Labour has increased spending on education and the NHS. However, you need to consider the way that money has been spent. PFI has resulted in large-scale government corruption. It also immorally transfers the cost of these projects to future generations.

The educational reforms have also been disastrous. Have a chat to Alistair Campbell’s partner if you don’t believe me. The one thing that has united the teaching profession in recent years was the Tomlinson Report. Yet Blair rejected the key proposals and completely messed up Tomlinson’s attempt to reform education.

The introduction of academies and specialist schools has not only undermined comprehensive education but has encouraged corruption in government. In fact, this is my main criticism of Tony Blair, he has done more than any other politician in our history to corrupt political life. In this sense he is a far more dangerous figure than Margaret Thatcher. He is also more right-wing than Thatcher. This is what Neal Lawson, chair of the pressure group Compass, had to say in the Guardian yesterday: “in politics, only those least likely to do something can actually do it. If only Nixon could go to China then only Blair could embed neoliberalism by daring to go where Thatcher feared to tread, commercialising higher education through tuition fees, schools through trusts and hospitals through foundations.”

Lawson goes onto argue that: “The jaw-dropping reality just dawning on some Labour politicians is that David Cameron might not simply be Thatcher in trousers. Their iron law of politics - that Tories are always rightwing extremists - is being invalidated before their eyes. Cameron was supposed to be like Hague and Howard, a wolf in sheep's clothing. This suited New Labour's whole electoral strategy because it allowed them to keep trimming to the right, safe in the knowledge the Tories would be more extreme. Sensibly, Cameron refuses to play this game and has opted instead to leapfrog New Labour into the acres of space to the left. This is the world the public lives in.”

Of course, the Tories will not deliver on these new left-wing policies, but the New Labour Project has made it possible for this change in strategy. As Lawson points out: “In a world cut loose from the anchor of ideological politics, exacerbated by first-past-the-post voting, politicians cannot be themselves, becoming instead like their opponents. Parties take their core voters for granted because they have nowhere else to go, and define themselves against their core beliefs.”

You claim that “the philosophy of New Labour is not socialist, however. It is broadly social democratic. It seeks to promote both economic prosperity and social justice.” I think it is fairly meaningless to state that a political party is in favour of “economic prosperity and social justice”. Surely all parties, including the Tory Party, would say the same thing? I am aware that Blair likes to identify himself as being “social democratic”. This is no doubt a reference to political parties in Scandinavia that use the term “social democratic” to describe socialist parties. The problem is that these parties really are socialist parties. This can be witnessed by the way inequalities have been reduced in these countries. Whereas under Blair’s New Labour, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased. Despite the failings of previous Labour governments, inequalities were reduced during their periods of office. The main way this was done was through the tax system. However, when Blair gained power he made it quite clear that he intended to stick to Thatcher’s low-rate of income tax on the wealthy. Tax has of course gone up under New Labour, but this as a result of increases in regressive taxes that mainly puts a burden on those who can least afford to pay it.

Why would a so-called Labour government adopt such reactionary policies. Could it have something to do with the funding of the Labour Party? Why have so many multimillionaires been so keen to fund the Labour Party? Why have those press barons like Rupert Murdoch decided for the first time to give a Labour government an easy ride? Might it be because Blair follows policies that they like? For example, low-rates of tax for multimillionaires. Not that these people pay much tax. What happened to all these tax loopholes that Gordon Brown promised to close? Of course, that would have upset our friend Rupert Murdoch, who might have had to start paying UK taxes.

Then there is Tony Blair close relationship with other right-wing political extremists like George Bush. What about Blair’s lying and conniving in order to launch an illegal invasion of Iraq? Is Blair on a percentage of the profits being made by Halliburton? Or does he just have to be satisfied by the £3.5 million contract that he has obtained from Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins book deal. According to Murdoch, his 179 newspapers were in favour of the Iraq invasion because it would result in a fall in oil prices and help to stimulate share prices. That failed to happen but I suspect he still had to keep to his side of the bargain.

#6 David Richardson

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 03:51 PM

As a member of Socialdemokraterna, let me endorse John's that the Swedish party is still a socialist party. There's a clear ideological difference being highlighted by the current Swedish election campaign, where the bourgeois parties (as are called all the parties which are not on the left - the British Liberal Democrats would figure in that group …) are trying to talk up a mass of 'problems' the Swedish economy allegedly suffers from, such as the fact that people who're worn out by work can get early retirement on fairly generous terms. It's a gift to a party that's still fairly true to its socialist origins, which is why the opinion polls are looking so good for the Socialdemokraterna right now.

There are two Swedish practices which might really benefit the UK political system: collective ministerial responsibility and the taboo against 'ministerstyre'. The first means that individual ministers can't be sacked - you either sack the entire government, or you rely on the government to police itself. In effect, it means that the Prime Minister accepts ultimate responsibility for everything the government does, and that individual ministers agree not to break ranks, once a policy has been decided on. If they feel they can't do this, then they are more or less obliged to resign their posts.

The second is a very long-standing tradition in Swedish government, going right back to the 1600s. Ministers in Sweden aren't allowed to actively intervene in the actions of their departments on the level of individual actions or the treatment of individuals. If they are suspected of doing this, they get called up before the Constitutional Committee. A clear-cut verdict against them is a resigning matter. The criticism of Thomas Bodström, the Home Secretary, over the Pirate Bay raid is that he took orders from the Americans and proceeded to implement them with direct instructions to the local police in Gothenburg. If there were any suspicion of this, he'd be in deep trouble (which is why he's claiming that he heard first about the raids on Text TV …).

Edited by David Richardson, 12 June 2006 - 03:53 PM.


#7 Lance Price

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 07:27 AM

1. Why did you choose the Mail on Sunday for your book's serialization? I find it hard to think of a newspaper less sympathetic to Labour. Was this deliberate or were they just the highest bidder?


There was an auction organised by my publishers in the usual way and, yes, the Mail on Sunday were the highest bidders. In some ways I felt very bad about it because, of course, they hate the Labour party with a vengeance. You can see an account of my dealings with them on my web-site: http://www.lanceprice.co.uk/. It's fair to say that I lost more friends in politics by the serialisation than I did from the book itself - just as Alastair Campbell warned me I would!

2. Do you believe that New Labour project contained any substance or was it always just "spin"?


It certainly was not just spin. Indeed is not - we shouldn't use the past tense just yet. As I have observed in response to John Simkin's questions, the Blair government has achieved a huge amount that no Tory government would ever have attempted. And you might note that, according to the Guardian, Dennis Skinner said last week that this was the best Labour Government there has ever been!

3. To what extent has internal party democracy been totally by-passed and if so do you believe that the condition is terminal?


Internal democracy was suppressed for a long time, partly through great self-discipline on the part of many members (a good thing) and partly from the control demanded by the centre (less healthy). the worst example was the strong-arm tactics used to stop Ken Livingstone becoming Labour candidate for Mayor of London the first time around. But things are improving. Ken is back in the party, the NEC is showing greater independence over party funding and other issues. It certainly is not terminal. The current leadership and, even more so, whoever succeeds Blair, will know that they have to reconnect with their own members to regain support in all those places where it has been lost.

#8 David Richardson

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 08:52 AM

Just to add a bit of perspective. The local ward organisation of the Kalmar Socialdemokraterna to which I pay my subscription has 155 members, of whom more than 70 regularly turn up to meetings. We have a local organisation of 15 'träskoansvariga' ('clog managers' - though why they're called that, I have no idea!) who distribute newsletters in their area (partly so that we save on postage, but mostly so that there's regular contact between the ward organisation and the local members). Our ward covers about 8,000 of the 60,000 people who live in Kalmar.

The older members think this situation is terrible - we ought to have at least 250 members, according to them. However, the two local parties I was in when I was a member of the Labour Party, Dartford and Ealing North, would have been extremely happy to have this number of active members … and those two districts both have something like 100,000 people living in them.

This is what the road back would look like for New Labour, in my opinion.

#9 Andy Walker

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 11:45 AM

It certainly was not just spin. Indeed is not - we shouldn't use the past tense just yet. As I have observed in response to John Simkin's questions, the Blair government has achieved a huge amount that no Tory government would ever have attempted.


Of this I am sure. No Tory government would have been so boldly right wing in education policy at least. The "reform" of teachers pay and introduction of performance related pay has distorted educational practice across the country and demoralised a whole generation of teachers. The acceleration of specialised schools and introduction of academies has destroyed comprehensive education and encouraged the corrupt mishandling of public money. The fixation with test results as evidence of 'improvement' has distorted classroom practice and examining board practice to such an extent that public examination results are now trusted by no one.
In foreign affairs it would be also be difficult to imagine a Tory government quite so blimpish and gung ho as New Labour. In domestic affairs the gap between rich and poor has widened during New Labour's time in office. Whilst New Labour has no problem waging imperialistic wars it is apparently "too difficult" to tax the rich and redistribute wealth. Working conditions and workers rights have been allowed to deteriorate at the whim of the global economy with massive increases in part time, low paid insecure and ununionised employment. Public services remain privatised and grossly over priced and inefficient. Anti trade union legislation remains in place. Public service workers workers are now faced with the prospect of working until they are 68 - presumably the aim is for them all to have the decency to die before they reach retirement age and donate all their worldy goods to New Labour's big business backers!
I agree on so many levels much of what New Labour has "achieved" would not have been attempted by even the most bold right wing of Tory governments.
This is Mr Blair's legacy - New Labour and the Tories now share an identical ideological position. Mr Blair's version of Thatcherism however is considerably bolder.



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